EQC head appears on Campbell Live: Review
EQC chief Ian Simpson appeared on Campbell Live last night after refusing to appear to answer residents' concerns on Wednesday night. John Campbell's Wednesday night programme for those who missed it was emotive, focusing on people in the Eastern suburbs who had been hardest hit and not been able to get any answers from the EQC on how to proceed. While Gerry Brownlee, Earthquake Recovery Minister, appeared on the show to tell residents it was "obvious" which suburbs would end up bowled, the responses from those in the Eastern suburbs were of people who were cold, scared, frustrated and frightened. As Labour MP for East Christchurch Lianne Dalziel emphasized, as the residents of Christchurch head into winter this government support is long overdue.
Simpson's notable lack of appearance on Wednesday night was a poor move from a public relations perspective, signaling that the EQC was left caught out and unprepared to deal with the questions that would be asked. Two days of crisis meetings later and it appears Simpson was briefed enough to be able to deal with the questions. The delays that residents were experiencing in being unable to get a hold of the EQC were to be expected he argued, particularly following a quake that resulted in 180,000 earthquake claims. With 130,000 of these processed by February before the second big quake it was clear that the EQC has made some gains.
However, one thing Simpson was not so good on was the way that the assessments had been prioritized. It was very clear that the smaller claims had been dealt with first and paid out, while people with much more severe damages went into the bottom of the queue as they had to wait for their houses to be assessed. People are living with major cracks through their houses, liquefaction and sewerage issues, and this is on top of the stress and uncertainty caused by the continuing aftershocks. Why have the people that have been hit extremely hard by the quake not managed to get any answers in the 8 months since September while other people have had minor repairs fixed? There was some insinuation that the EQC was waiting on the government to determine which zones would be condemned or what percentage the EQC was legally liable for of the costs. While Simpson denied this, he implied that his organization would be ready when the Government was.
It should not be underestimated the scale of the disaster that the EQC and the Government are dealing with in Christchurch. However, it seems that aside from the practical elements that they are achieving there is a major failure in communication in regards to Christchurch. It is clear that the systems that are in place are not being articulated well and that the prioritization of claims is not effective. That it took Simpson two days to answer questions on this signals this clearly.